Oxytocin: The Love Hormone
Updated: Dec 16, 2021
Oxytocin is sometimes called the love hormone, but in reality, love isn’t essential to experience the feel-good effects of this hormone. However, sex and orgasms help a lot. This amazing hormone can have all kinds of positive impacts on relationships, plays a role in reproduction, and increases bonding. Let’s take a look at how Oxytocin makes you feel, how to get more of it.
The Science of Oxytocin
Oxytocin acts as a neurotransmitter. It is naturally occurring and is produced by the hypothalamus and secreted by the pituitary gland. Oxytocin has been of interest to neuroscientists since the 1970s. Studies showed that it could drive maternal behavior and social attachment in various species.
Oxytocin's story started in the early 1900s when biochemists discovered that a substance from the posterior pituitary gland could promote labor contractions and lactation. When scientists later discovered a hormone was responsible, they named it after the Greek phrase meaning 'rapid birth.'
Motherhood and Oxytocin
Oxytocin signals the uterus to contract, which begins labor. Oxytocin also helps the uterus return to its previous size. Infant and mother interactions trigger oxytocin release. Mothers with higher levels of this hormone are more likely to engage in affectionate touch, grooming, and speaking to their baby. Breastfeeding also releases Oxytocin. The same positive effects are found with foster mothers and adoptive parents. Fathers, too, can release Oxytocin.
Ok, so you are past motherhood or never was a mother, how do you benefit from the wonderful feeling of Oxytocin? Sex! (preferably with orgasms)
Oxytocin and Sex
Oxytocin is released during hugging, touching, and orgasm. It isn’t necessary to have a partner; masturbation and orgasm work as well!
Oxytocin released during orgasm increases feelings of closeness and bonding.
It increases feelings of trust, relaxation, and psychological stability.
Oxytocin reduces stress and anxiety.
Oxytocin has been suggested as a possible treatment for social phobia, autism, and postpartum depression.
In a Norwegian study “partners who were more invested in a relationship released more Oxytocin when they thought about their relationship than the less invested partner did. Considering both members together, it was the difference in investment between partners that predicted an increase in Oxytocin. Here, Oxytocin may be acting more like a 'crisis hormone.”
Relief from pain has been associated with Oxytocin.
How to Increase Oxytocin (Without Sex)
As you read this, you may be thinking: “who has the time or desire for sex?". Especially in light of how much our lives have changed this past year. Due to COVID, intimacy has taken a big hit. The stress of working from home, kids doing online schooling, and kids being around ALL of the time can make it tough to have sex and even romantic interaction.
If you are menopausal, desire for intimacy may have diminished due to decreased estrogen and testosterone levels. Estrogen increases the secretion of Oxytocin, so consider bioidentical hormone replacement.
Fortunately, there are other ways to increase Oxytocin since the body produces it naturally. Here are some proven ways to release Oxytocin and improve your health at the same time:
Listen to Music
Yes, listening to music releases Oxytocin. The best invention ever for this is earbuds and your own playlist. No one is disturbed, and you get a rush of your favorite hormone along with a few others!
Share Your Love and Affection
You may not be able to do it in person, but there are many other ways to bond with the important people to you. Have you ever had one of those great phone conversations with a sibling, parent, or friend? The positive feeling is undeniable. You don’t have to say “I love you” to show your appreciation. Listen, laugh, show empathy, and be present.
A meditation practice helps you feel more compassion towards yourself and others. Starting a meditation practice can be challenging for many people. We recommend one of the good guided options available in the app store if you need some guidance.
Do Something Nice for Someone Else
Selfless acts of kindness promote the release of Oxytocin. Be creative and intentional in an effort to reach out or help someone else. This could be something as simple as a gift, helping an older neighbor shovel their driveway, or making a donation to a cause that is important to you.
Studies show that yoga practice increases the release of Oxytocin and decreases anxiety and stress. You may have avoided starting a yoga practice because you expect to look like those slim beautiful people who grace the online videos and magazines. Put all of that aside and start with a very simple and time-limited practice.
Get a Dog
Dogs are a big responsibility, but they give a big return. During the pandemic, there has been a surge in dog acquisitions. One can only wonder if this in response to quarantines and the lack of available ways to get our usual oxytocin release.
Research has shown that petting, stroking, and interacting with a dog releases Oxytocin for both the person and the dog. The same is probably true of other pets as well.
See your Hormone Provider
If indicated by a medical provider, oxytocin can be prescribed as a nasal spray to be used prior to intimacy. This can increase the intensity of climax along with increased connection with your partner. It can also be used to treat the medical condition of anorgasmia, or difficulty reaching climax.
Oxytocin: Boost Your Mood and Improve Your Relationships
2020 has been a tough year for many people. We can all use ways to improve our social connections and relationships. As we learn more about the complicated interplay of hormones and mood, we find out how much control we have. Try our suggestions, and you may be surprised how much better you will feel.